Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Lighting up lives at the Lamp Post School

An estimated 35,000 street children live in Mumbai . We see them in trains selling trinkets, at traffic lights begging or selling flowers, at the vegetable market helping their parents, in restaurants cleaning tables, in our buildings cleaning cars, taking the laundry or dropping off the newspapers. What do we do? Most of us avert our eyes or buy stuff from them or plainly take them for granted. We think we are being compassionate if we say a kind word or that we are helping them by buying stuff from them. There are others with cynical hearts that feel nothing but revulsion for them. And then, there are those who step up to actually do something for them.

The Lamp Post school was one such story started by a compassionate individual, Sanjay Pasrija of Deloitte who happened to notice street kids studying by roadside lamps. Seeing their dedication day after day, and several days of nightly chats, he finally took the plunge of teaching them and the Lamp Post school was born. With support from other Deloitte employees and Deloitte, the school was given a space in the office basement, where regular learning began and now continues to boast of over 50 students now, many of which are doing remarkably well at their regular class with the ‘schools’ support. It is indeed remarkable what can be achieved if we pledged even a couple of hours a week.

It is all such individuals that I wanted to salute in this blog of mine. While most of us plainly sit in drawing rooms and criticize the government, the poverty, the corruption, the disparity between the rich and the poor, the fact that there are so many IT jobs in India, going abroad and a plethora of usual topics, there is basically no action that is being taken. I speak of the educated employed as well as educated unemployed. While everyone has their own priorities in life wouldn’t it be great if the privileged lot of us actually got up, got out and did something out there?

An organization that is doing its bit is IndiBlogger that is doing a great job of propagating the Akshaya Patra foundation of ISKCON, that is helping feed hungry mouths for education. Their cause reaches out to 1.2 million kids everyday. Read more about them at http://www.akshayapatra.org/ and see what you can do to help.

One more person who acted truly extra-ordinarily was an IIT-IIM alumnus, Vinayak Lohani who gave up a lucrative career for an altruistic life dedicated to serving abandoned kids in Calcutta. I do not know what motivated him to do so, but it certainly is inspiring to know that he successfully founded an NGO known as Parivaar that now serves over 400 kids. Kudos to this gentleman too who chose the difficult road less travelled. Check out http://www.parivaar.org/

Ofcourse, all of us may not be as selfless as Mr Lohani and will venture to ask, What is in it for us? Well, in this world crunched for time, it is an important question, given our ‘important’ priorities and crazy lives.

Firstly, spending some time with a different strata in society, adds a completely new dimension to one’s life and we appreciate what we have much more. I remember what a humbling experience it was, when I heard the aspirations of these street kids in a very short stint that I had done in India. On being questioned, what they wanted to become when they grew up, the usual doctor, engineer, astronaut were replaced by the ‘high and mighty’ ‘rickshawala’ or ‘mechanic’ as the highest ambitions.

Secondly, there are so many skills out there to be picked up. Public speaking is one, especially if one is involved in teaching. I have a friend who has been involved in an organization known as ‘Samidha’ (www.samidha.org). After digging their pockets to support the initiatives, they found that it wasn’t enough. This friend explored fund raising options and came up with several innovative schemes that keep the organization ticking (though they still appreciate more help!). Now, running an NGO is like running an organization with several project management skills that can be picked up.

Thirdly, for college kids looking for work to ramp up their resumes, working with an NGO or community service is a golden opportunity to pick up some skills along the way.

For all the professionals out there, a stint in social work is always appreciated by prospective employers.

Lastly, it is the satisfaction that can be gained by doing something for the nation that is ours and the chance to improve a life. Unless we rise to do something, the disparity and problems that our nation faces are not going to solve themselves.

If you finally think, it might be worth a shot, there are several ways to do it.

Starting a new initiative will be a challenge of course, and might take far more dedication and time than one might have. However, there are a whole lot of NGOs out there ready to help and that seek help. Googling these is not too difficult to join up in your respective city. Teaming up with friends, colleagues etc might bring a fun element that might motivate you to go to do this! If at all, you refuse to leave your homes, perhaps you could start with just our own maids' kids who wash the dishes alongside their moms and help them better their education.
Each One Teach One.

A Samidha volunteer educating kids on computers
(courtsey Amit Poharkar)

For the complete Lamp Post school story, please read http://www.deloitte.com/assets/Dcom-UnitedStates/Local%20Assets/Documents/us_Deloitte_Life_Winter_2008.pdf


  1. A wonderful initiative! Thanks for sharing the unsung heroics of people who are catalyzing the socio environment for good!

  2. Nice space you have here.. I used google for a old childhood rhyme.. "Aao milo shilo shalo" and ended up here..

    glad to have discovered this beautiful Blog.. I Will come back again to explore more..


    P.S. You have a new follower now :)

  3. Whoa Richa! Now you have really started blogging and it is nice to see you on Indiblogger too. This post was right after my heart. you will read about it all in one of my upcoming posts.

  4. My heart always goes out to street kids. They go through such fortitude for no fault of their own. Your suggestions are quite noble and worth being followed. Do keep enlightening.

  5. @Calvy - I am glad I could share some stories here. But there are so many still out there doing a wonderful job silently! I wish there were more such people in the world

    @Megha: Delighted to meet you! Thank you for visiting and following my blog. I look forward to hearing from you again

  6. @zephyr: I look forward to reading your post on this. With the large number of followers you already have, I'm sure your words will inspire many!And yes, I have discovered a whole window to the world in IndiBlogger now!

    @umashankar: Thank you for visiting. I certainly hope my suggestions make a tiny difference to some unhappy kid out there!

  7. Whoa!Brilliant encouraging Blog .
    Its pitty that many children are doing illicit jobs .
    I believe in slogan of "EACH ONE TEACH ONE"

    Keep Writing

  8. Now this is a post with a difference. It's wonderful that you have taken the initiative in bringing forth these unsung heroes on your blog.

    Will be checking out the links.

  9. @Purba: Thanks and keep visiting!